Cardio On Rest Days: What Should I Do On My Days Off From Lifting?

QUESTION: I’m currently working out 4 days per week and was wondering what I should do on my off days from weight lifting? I was thinking of maybe doing some cardio on those days, but I wasn’t sure if that was okay?

I’ve also heard people say that the best thing to do on your off days is to just rest completely and let your body recover. Or maybe do something to help with recovery such as stretching, foam rolling, mobility work, epsom salt bath, massage and that kind of thing. What do you recommend?

ANSWER: What should you do on your off days? Hmmm, I dunno… read a book?

But seriously, this is one of a handful of questions I get asked over and over again that I kinda hate getting asked. Not because it’s a stupid question, but because there is no single universal answer to it. And typically the best answer I can give is a combination of annoying, complicated and lacking real direct concrete advice (you’ll see in a second).

Why? Because what you should be doing on your off days is one of those things that just depends.

It Depends

It depends on all kinds of stuff, all of which are specific to you. For example…

  • It depends on YOU and YOUR exact situation.
  • It depends on YOUR specific needs and preferences.
  • It depends on what YOU actually want to do.
  • It depends on what YOU actually have the time, capability and work capacity to do.

And possibly more so than all of the above, it depends on YOUR goals.

  • Are you trying to lose fat?
  • Build muscle?
  • Get stronger?
  • Improve cardiovascular health?
  • Are you training for some kind of endurance or power event?
  • Do you have some type of athletic goal in mind where you’re training for some other sport or activity?
  • Are you trying to improve mobility or flexibility?
  • Trying to increase your vertical leap?
  • Are you trying to burn additional calories?
  • Are you trying to optimize recovery or minimize soreness?
  • Trying to improve your overall level of fitness and conditioning?

I can keep going. There’s just a ton of individual factors specific to you that play a role in determining what, if anything, you should do on your off days from weight training.

Potential Answers

Based on those factors, the potential answers can be all over the place and range from one extreme (do a lot of something) to another (do none of that same thing).

For example, maybe your off days would ideally involve doing a certain amount and type of cardio. Maybe a certain amount and type of stretching or mobility work. Maybe some form of active recovery. Maybe some other unrelated form of training for some unrelated sport or activity you happen to be training for.

Then again, maybe you should be doing absolutely nothing on your off days.

That’s why I hate this question. I get a ton of people who tell me they’re using The Beginner Weight Training Routine, or The Muscle Building Workout Routine, or a program from The Best Workout Routines, and they follow that up with “so um, what should I be doing on my off days?”

I really don’t have all that great of an answer for them.

The Best Answer I Can Think Of

So, what should you do on your off days? The best possible answer I can give you is this:

Do whatever the hell you need/want to be doing for your specific goals in accordance with your specific needs and preferences.

See… a nice combination of “annoying, complicated and lacking in any real direct concrete advice” just like I promised. But, it’s honestly the best answer I can give without knowing every other detail about your exact situation.

It sucks, I know.

But rather than leave you with a glorified “it depends” and send you on your merry way (although something tells me the answer above won’t leave you feeling all that merry), let’s pretend I know at least one thing about you… your goal.

Now let’s also pretend this goal of yours is to build muscle or lose fat (or both), as opposed to something like training for performance or a certain sport/activity.

With me so far? Awesome. Now just based on the many people with these goals who have asked me this question, I’ve found that the two most common “off day” options being considered are usually:

  1. Cardio
  2. Nothing

Here’s my advice.

Should I Do Cardio On My Rest Days?

Guess what? It still depends. Only now we can come a lot closer to a useful answer.

No… kinda.

If your primary goal is to build muscle, then there is no need for doing any cardio on your off days. Similarly, if you want to lose fat but you’re creating your required caloric deficit through diet alone, then again there is no need for doing any cardio on your off days (details here: How To Lose Weight Without Exercise).

In both of these scenarios, the only thing you truly need to do on your rest days is… rest. Cardio isn’t needed at all and you can avoid it completely. That doesn’t mean you MUST avoid it, it just means that these are two common examples of people who CAN avoid it and still reach their goals just fine.

So if either of these examples describe you AND you have no other reason or preference for doing cardio, then your answer is pretty clear. Don’t do any.

And then there are separate examples of people who should probably not do any, but less because there’s no need (like our previous examples) and more because it will cause problems.

Take for instance the skinny guy/girl (aka an ectomorph and/or hardgainer) trying to build muscle who has a hard time eating enough calories to support growth. Burning additional calories through off-day cardio would just make that problem worse.

Another example would be people who do their off-day cardio in a way that makes it detrimental to their goal by cutting into recovery and making it harder for them to build muscle when that’s the goal, or maintain muscle when fat loss is the goal. Step 1 for this person is to reduce the duration, frequency, and/or intensity of their cardio so it’s less problematic. But if that’s not something they can do for whatever reason (some people just can’t hold back a little… they must overdo things), then they’d probably be better off doing no cardio at all on these days.

Yes… kinda.

Now let’s change the scenarios around.

Let’s say you’re trying to lose fat and you aren’t able to create your required deficit through diet alone. Meaning, you flat out NEED to do cardio on your off days in order for that deficit to exist. In this case, the above advice would change since a true need for doing cardio has now presented itself.

Or, maybe you CAN create your deficit through diet alone, but you just don’t want to. You’d prefer to use cardio anyway (in conjunction with your diet) to help create that deficit. That’s fine. In these cases, you most definitely can (and most likely should)… so long as it’s kept to a sane amount to avoid that previously mentioned point of detriment.

Just like if a person with either goal (fat loss or muscle growth) had some other aerobic/endurance related goal or interest in mind… or just wanted to do cardio for whatever other reason (cardiovascular health, maintain or improve conditioning, you just enjoy doing it, etc.).

These again are examples where cardio can be done on your off days.

Maybe

I think I can sum it up like this…

If you have some legit need that requires cardio OR a personal preference for doing cardio, then some can be done on your off days.

But if not, then none is needed and you can literally just use those days to rest and recover with no form of training being done.

Like I said before, this is one of those things that just doesn’t have a good universal answer that’s right for everyone. It always depends on individual needs, goals and preferences… and you’re the only one who has that information.

So I guess my answer for you is… maybe. You’ll have to take it from there.

What About Me?

As for me personally, any regular reader probably knows by now that I’m not much of a fan of cardio… as least not as a tool for improving body composition.

When the goal is something else — perhaps something endurance oriented — that’s another story altogether. But strictly for losing fat, building muscle and just looking great naked?

I consider it completely optional, HIGHLY overrated and occasionally counterproductive.

I don’t find it very fun, either.

So when muscle growth is my goal, I tend to avoid cardio because A) my calorie needs in a surplus are high enough as it is, so burning additional calories via cardio on my rest days just makes my job harder, B) I recover better without it, and C) I just hate doing it.

When fat loss is my goal, I tend to do little to no cardio because A) I have no problem whatsoever creating my deficit through diet alone and prefer doing it that way, B) I recover better without it, and C) I still just hate doing it.

But hey, that’s just what’s ideal for me based on my specific needs and preferences.

You should do what’s ideal for yours.

115 thoughts on “Cardio On Rest Days: What Should I Do On My Days Off From Lifting?”

115 Comments

  1. I would love to be able to do cardio on my off days, but I usually cannot walk after a leg day so it’s not an option sadly 🙂

  2. If a person in a calorie deficit wanted to improve cardiovascular health, would they have to consume more calories than their original deficit?

    • If a person needed to consume 2500 calories per day to be in an ideal sized deficit (just an example), and they burned 500 calories that day through cardio, they should eat 3000 calories that day (unless they happened to want to purposely create a larger deficit that day).

      • I want to cut but not by decreasing calories. In order to do that, I have to increase my cardio to allow me to be in a deficit. Should I do those cardio on rest day or just after weight lifting days? And if I do them after weight lifting days, should I eat the same amount of calories that I eat during the training days? Thanks

  3. Hi Jay, Thanks for the nice article again.. I have a question related to Cardio.. they say that cardio also helps us to keep our heart beat healthy and does not make us that tired if we have to climb stairs or any physical strain? How true is it?

    • It’s true. Cardio can definitely provide cardiovascular and endurance/conditioning benefits.

      But then again, assuming you’re not exclusively doing very low rep sets with very high rest periods 100% of the time, intelligent weight training can provide some of those same benefits as well.

  4. Knowing what a workout junkie I am, cutting out cardio will be tough, but could be the answer for me. How long would you recommend trying/testing this approach? A month? Longer? Shorter?

  5. I’m glad I am not the only one who hates cardio.
    I really really hate doing cardio. I even stopped warming up for 5 minutes on the treadmill before weight training. I’d rather starve myself to death than do cardio.

  6. I currently do a 4 day upper/lower body split an was wondering about replacing one of my leg days with 20mins of HIIT on the cross trainer, my question is does doing HIIT build muscle n strength in the legs at all or is it very little compared to doing a weights day on legs?

  7. Hi I have a question about cardio during a bulking phase. Lyle Mcdonald in one of his articles says that keeping a couple of session of low intensity cardio is good for calorie partitioning and that it keeps the body “more skilled” in oxydating the fat. This can make the transition between cut and bulk easier. What are your thought about it?

    • I think there may be some very small calorie partitioning benefits there (and low intensity cardio is the most I’d recommend for someone whose primary goal is muscle growth), but you’d have to weigh those potential benefits against the potential negatives (have to eat more calories to compensate, risk of cutting into recovery, etc.).

  8. Hi thanks again for a great article. Honestly every time I’m wondering about something, you seem to answer it. My mental health is much improved by my cardio {read, I’m not such a hormonal psycho:}
    I just do twice a week in between my lifting days. I cut it out when I originally started weight training and I really missed it. I think I’ve found the balance now.

    • I hear that a lot actually… people who just feel better mentally or physically by keeping some cardio around. And in those cases, it’s perfectly fine. Finding that ‘balance’ you mentioned is key.

  9. SIMPLY love this article! It just drives me nuts when folks want a cookie cutter answer/approach to everything. Providing no context, but need an answer NOW…

    Although, I know your answer to this question because I’ve already asked LOL! What about those who want to do cardio on weight training days? It can be done at separate times of day, sure. But what about those who want to do in same session? Can you give reasons why cardio would be better for a specific persons goals before & after weights?

    Thank you for your dedication!!!

    • If you’re doing weights and cardio in the same session, it should almost always be weights first, then cardio.

      The reason for this is because you’re going to be fresher/better/stronger/more focused/etc. both mentally and physically for whatever you do first, and the opposite of that to some extent (more fatigued/weaker/etc.) for whatever you do second.

      So… which do you want/need to be more mentally and physically at your best for? Squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, etc. where you’re lifting heavy weights in ways that need to be technically sound and pushing yourself to progress past whatever you did the previous time? Or, jogging on a treadmill for 30 minutes to burn some calories?

      For 99% of people, it’s going to be weights.

      The main exception would be if the person happened to care more about cardio than weight training (as in, their cardio performance was more important to their goals than their weight training performance). In a case like that, cardio before weights might be the right idea. But, that’s pretty rare for the majority of the population.

      • Also, if you are intending on losing some fat, doing cardio after your weights will mean you are more likely to use stored fat as energy than glycogen which would have been depleted by your weights workout.
        Jay is there some truth to this? I have read this in many articles. thanks for your greatness

          • I wish you’d write a blog smacking down the myths about fat burning in regards to when you exercise. I at least understand the basic argument in working out in the morning vs. working out in the evening. But I absolutely don’t get the argument that you’ll burn more fat by running after you lift vs. before. It seems like a simple function of math to me. X calories weight lifting + Y calories “cardio” equals total calories needed. Fat loss should equal calories needed minus glycogen storage (and blood glucose levels). Whether Y comes before X or after it shouldn’t have any real difference, should it?

          • After I do my 1 hour of HIIT sled training, I will do 15-30 minutes of cardio on the elliptical afterwardsjust to maximize my calorie burn.

            If I was to do this before, I’d be too exhausted to perform my main workout, which is the most important one to me. But that’s just what works for me 🙂

  10. Jay, I will be training for a couple of weeks for a 5k…basically running 2 or three miles daily. I will do this on top of my weight training (doing your “outstanding arms routine with great results. How can I avoid losing muscle while I train? Keep calories up, protein up, and lift heavy?

    • I am not Jay, but the answer to your question is YES IMHO. You need to consider how much additional calories will be burned from your cardio training and add them back in to your diet to maintain your weight. IMHO more protein is good always.

    • Pretty much. Eat enough additional calories to compensate for the calories being burned, keep protein high and keep lifting heavy. You may find you’ll need to reduce weight training volume and/or frequency at some point to allow for adequate recovery with that much cardio being done.

    • 5K is not that far. You can easily gain muscle while training for a 5K. Sprinters run that far and more and gain lots of muscle.

      There are a few things you have to watch out for. #1 – increase calorie intake as already mentioned. #2 – Your muscles don’t have the endurance to run a 5K much less run a 5K and weight lift. Running isn’t merely about your cardiovascular system. Running uses many of the muscles in your body and they need to build up the endurance also. Make sure you have adequate recovery time. In other words, don’t try to overtrain or you will risk injury.

  11. You’ve got the “Laymen” way of writing down pat and so ease to understand.
    No big scientific mumbo-jumbo about muscles or huge unpronounceable terminologies.
    I like each and every article and I keep them. Thanks.

  12. Hey Jay, God knows how I wait for reading a nice article like this as always from you

    I appreciate your job!

    It was always my question but to be honest: since I’ve reduced my cardio in off days I’m seeing that my muscles are growing faster, also I have to say that I always keep my calorie isolation both in workout days and off days which are different from each other in these two types of days

    I,m now more confident about my findings by reading from an expert like you

  13. I prefer “brisk” walking as Jay puts it. Especially after a heavy leg day when your hips and other joints are little beat up. No need to beat up them up more by repeated running impact. I either walk or get on the bike or rowing machine.

  14. Hi Jay!

    As usual, good article!

    This is one of the questions that should not been asked, but good answer: annoying, complicated and lacking in any real direct concrete advice, i liked it.
    Keep up the good work!

  15. I always love Jay’s writings – thanks once again for this one. I’ve tried different was of incooperting cardio into my weight training. The best for me is on the same day (first weights and then 15 min cardio). My rest day just means (no gym) but I do light cardio like running around with the kids on my bike(living in Amsterdam),cleaning my house etc. I really like this routine because i don’t feel like my entire week is spent in the gym.
    Thanks again Jay!

  16. What if you a skinny fat type of a guy whose aim is to lose fat and build muscle (goal is to get ripped ) then is cardio advisable on rest days? And cardio I mean hiit cardio not normal boring cardio like running etc?

  17. What about those training for an endurance event such as tough mudder or spartan race? Is it possible to gain while simultaneously getting ready to run a half marathon through the mud? Currently going at it 6 days a week and I’m wondering if I’m putting too much into the cardio phase

    • Building muscle while training for some kind of endurance heavy sport is definitely not an ideal combination. Can it be done? Sometimes… assuming you eat enough calories to compensate and ensure a surplus still exists and adjust your training so that adequate recovery is still there.

      It will definitely make things harder and less likely to produce optimal results, though. And in some cases where there’s just a ton of cardio being done… it’s possible it may prevent results, period.

      • Thanks Jay – explains why I’m getting stronger but no change in body shape! Would you recommend alternate such as go 3 months for mass and then 3 months cardio and then maybe a month combined right before the race? Or should I just constantly be eating?

        • I’ve gone from bodybuilding to running. The overall concepts are actually very similar. Training requires progressive overload just as in weight training.

          The reason why an endurance event and bodybuilding conflict is for two primary reasons.

          #1 – time. Training for a half marathon requires you to run lots of miles. On an average to good day, I can run 8 miles in about 60 minutes. That doesn’t include warmup, cool down, or post run stretching. Naturally, I can’t run hard for an hour then turn around and engage in progressive overload strength training (or vice versa). I need to recover. So who has the time to do both well? Not most people.

          #2 – Lots of muscle is not great for endurance running. This is just simple physics. Which would you prefer to run with? 200 or 250lbs? So while having big biceps looks great, it’s detrimental to running long distances.

          This could be a third reason but really falls into #1 because it is a function of having enough time to train properly. People underestimate how many muscles are involved in running. That is until they get an injury. Having a strained achilles or hip flexor isn’t going to keep you from weight lifting. It might prevent you from doing some leg exercises but it most assuredly will keep you from running. As will a strained abdomen or any other muscle from your head to your toes. So that killer ab routine you did yesterday? You feel sore today and that’s great. But it will be extremely difficult to run 12 miles. Not to mention the real deal killer. Repetitive injury. You worked legs yesterday. You aren’t sore so you feel you can run. The problem is that your hip flexors were worked and haven’t recovered. You run which works them again. That causes tendinitis. It is just extremely difficult to train for both at the same time unless you know what you are doing and have the time to train and recover.

  18. Jay I must say that the calorie cycling and weight training is working for me. Without cardio! I’m working on getting my friends on board by teaching them the info found on your website. I’ve been losing 0.5 lbs a week consistently. Thanks and keep on writing!

  19. I have been doing a 3day/week weight training routine and following it with 15-30 min of cardio for the last 3 weeks. I haven’t lost a pound 🙁 I read this article because I was wondering if I should do more cardio. I eat very healthy. I just feel so sore on my off days I can’t imagine doing cardio. oh and what’s a realistic and healthy weight loss expectation per month? And…..is it possible I am losing fat and gaining muscle as some people say?

      • Wow ok, I feel stupid for falling or those “sayings”. Thanks for writing so bluntly…..bringing me back to common sense…..things I kind of already knew. I’m so hungry these days I’ve been eating more food then before I started working out. Even if it’s healthy food, doesn’t matter for fat loss.

  20. I know this is going to sound pretty stupid, since I am just asking the same question which you have answered in this article but here goes
    I play squash 6 days a week in the morning and am following your 4 day split routine in the evening.
    Is this much exercise okay, provided I have the required caloric surplus to build muscle or should I tone it down a bit?

  21. Hi there, I’m a bit disappointed that you don’t have much love for cardio 🙂 I lost weight by combining diet and running. I was like you and didn’t like it at the beginning but it changed quickly and now I just love running. Anyways, after I reached my weight goal, I started working out to build a muscles basis. The next step for me after that was mass gain, that seems to not work to well. Like everyone, I read tones of stuff on mass gain online and the main thing I kept in mind were eat 300-500 more calories than needed and lots of proteins. I also change my workout from a 10-12 rep to a 6-8 reps. I gained some weight due to this but I’m don’t really see the mass gain. I forgot to mention I’m still running 4 times a week. I’m starting thinking that my running is affecting my goal of mass gain. But I don’t want to completely quit running because I like it. Also, after losing all the pounds, which I was proud of, it’s tough to see the scale go up again. So I’m stuck with this dilemma now, to run or not to run. I still want to gain some mass but considering cutting the running to 2 times a week. I don’t really have a question for you but would appreciate your comments/recommendations. Thanks

  22. What a fantastic article, Jay! I’m new to Strength Training but, have made tremendous gains in both muscle mass and fat loss since starting in August of this year! I absolutely LOVE your ‘No Nonsense’ approach to how to attain better body composition. In fact, the information you’ve laid out here (and in other writings…) is exactly the same foundational, sensible, scientific information I am currently reading in ‘Strength Training for Dummies’. All I do know is that IT WORKS and I plan on continuing reading your articles and getting out the word on your website, Jay! Finally, a source I can trust, without an agenda! THANK YOU!!

  23. Hey Jay,

    What’s up..

    I want to build muscles as well as need to lose fat (Considering I am fat and regaining muscles after a break of 2 years,

    I want to add Sprints to my off day instead of boring cardio (I hate cardio and never do it)

    What is your advice on when to do the sprints.

    Thanks in advance,
    Sanjay

  24. Hey, beginner here, 6’0″ male, 290 lbs, about three weeks into training. Mainly looking to lose weight, but I’d like to put on some muscle as well, and I can certainly appreciate the overlap between the two. I’ve basically been inhaling this site for the past week—you do a really good job of making things both approachable and informative.

    Like the poor guy who asked question that prompted this post, I’m doing weight training 3-4 times a week and have been doing cardio on off days. I totally get that maintaining a caloric deficit is what really matters, but there are a couple of other reasons I find cardio appealing. Unfortunately, I don’t know nearly enough about this stuff to have any idea whether these reasons are valid or not:

    – Will the extra few workouts a week increase my RMR? All other things being equal, I think I’d rather be burning more calories—it’d give me a bit more leeway on the diet front, and it would make it easier to reach my target protein intake. Or does it not work that way? Am I really increasing the number of calories I’ll burn while I’m not exercising?

    – I have a recumbent exercise bike with ramp interval programs built in. I generally try to stick to the most strenuous program I can complete—50 minutes, changes in resistance every 2 minutes. Is this likely to interfere with lower body recovery after lifting? And how would I be able to tell?

    Thanks again for making all of this great information available in such an accessible way!

    • 1. Burning more calories does allow you to eat more, which is one of the benefits of burning calories. Then again, the idea that a person has “burned calories” is also something that causes them to eat a lot more than they should while thinking “hey, I did 30 minutes on the treadmill today, I can surely afford to eat this extra 1000 calories now.” As for burning more calories when not exercising… that’s something called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). It’s real, but it’s much less significant than people think.

      2. Impossible to say… this kind of stuff will vary from person to person. You’d be able to tell by closely monitoring progress and how you feel overall. If strength in the gym is good (maintaining/improving) and you feel fresh… awesome. If strength is starting to go to shit and you start feeling a bit tired and rundown… you may need to cut back somewhere.

  25. Hey man. I have a question. What’s your opinion on doing some brief cardio training on workout days? My primary goals with this are cardiovascular health and increased endurance, to be clear. And, due to my circumstances, I can’t really have any training at all on my rest days. I’m thinking about 5-15 mins of threadmill jogging/briskwalking or something along the same lines.

  26. Personally, I don’t think cardio has to be boring. I totally agree that running on a treadmill has to be the most boring thing ever. I would rather do my homework or fold laundry than get on a treadmill or stationary bike. But this isn’t the only type of cardio. Currently I love to ride my bike on the beautiful country roads I live on or run on the wildlife trails behind my local community college, and when I used to live in the city I enjoyed following bike paths through the parks, swimming at one of the three community pools in the summer, and exploring downtown on my bike and on foot. There are plenty of cardio activities that don’t involve watching a muted tv going nowhere next to a bunch of other sweaty drones (or by yourself in your basement), and I would highly recommend them, especially if you need a breath of fresh air.

  27. Great advice Jay. To contribute to the convo a bit, there is a point where dropping calories lower only makes one crazier/more hungry and more likely to binge eat thereby destroying the weekly diet induced deficit. Here’s where cardio or just plain moving more on a weekly basis creates value. The problem comes in when the dieter instead of starting with minimum amount necessary (ie brisk walking for 20minutes) feels they must perform extreme conditioning programs or long duration treadmill hamster sessions. There’s just no where left to go from there. It’s painful to watch extremely obese people jogging.

  28. I do your full body workout routine but i have track training (roughly 2-4 miles Monday-Friday except if we have a meet in the week)
    1. Should I increase my calorie intake? (right now its like 2600)
    2. I can get days where i can just go on the stationary bikes which would be better for muscle building, but not very often, so how should I do that? Once a week?
    3. If i miss a workout A for example due to a track meet, should I do that workout when I would do B to keep it even?
    So like Monday-B
    Wednesday-Missed A due to track meet
    Friday-A? or a different day and still try to do BAB like mon B tues/thurs A fri B

    This might seem like a lot to answer, but it would be a great help if you could.

    • 1. Your net calorie intake should end up at whatever it needs to be for your goal. If you have to increase it to make up for the extra calories being burned to get that to happen, then do that.
      2. Don’t really know what you’re asking.
      3. Depends on what your schedule allows for. As long as there are 1-2 days between weight training workouts, you’re good. Unless you notice that training the day after a meet kills your weight training performance, in which case adding 1 day between the meet and your next workout might be a good option.

  29. Hi Jay, I love this site and your articles are great! I am a woman trying to lose a lot of fat quickly, and have been drastically reducing caloric intake and shed almost 16 lbs in two weeks. I’m sure much of it was salt and water, but I’m still ready for more! My question is, if I do strength training , lifting and hot yoga along with this reduction of calories, is it true that I’m going to screw up my metabolism if my diet is extra low calorie? I’m not starving myself, simply eating mostly vegetables and protein and just enough to curb hunger. Thanks!!!

    I subscribed to your website and posted a question the other day as well!

  30. I train full body workouts 2 x week. How about 20 minutes of cardio after weights for heart health? Also, read a study about how doing 20-30 min after weights improves blood vessel elasticity. Heavy training alone can cause arterial stiffness and the cardio after weights reduces that effect….Btw, your site is awesome! I recommended your book to my friends 14 yr old son who is just starting to lift. Wish I had this book when I started 25 yrs ago!

    • That’s perfectly fine. If cardio fits in with your goals, needs and preferences and isn’t done to a degree where it negatively effects other goals you might have… it’s really perfectly fine.

      And glad to hear it man! Thanks for recommending the book.

  31. Great Article, Thanks.

    Glad to see you approve of Brisk Walking. I walk 3-5km twice a day at 6.5km/h average speed.
    I have Built up to that over the 6 months I have been losing weight and gaining muscle.

    I am on a plan that involves a calorie deficiency built into my daily life. (1000 cal deficit)
    One Calorie point I would like to raise is that if I do 30min of brisk walking most calorie counters would give that about 230 calories burned. If I sat and did nothing for 30min I would burn about 40 calories. So when I eat to replace those walked off calories I should only replace 190, not the 230. because my BMR already accounts for the 40 I would burn doing nothing. Usually the differences are so small that they wont be a problem. But anyone doing lots of exercise every day needs to think about what they have really burned.

  32. Hi,

    I am going to start your Beginner Workout Routine and I want to pair it with some light cardio because I can’t create a calorie deficit via diet only and also cardio makes me feel better. Now my question is: should one day per week be completely OFF? I mean, without even some walking/brisk walking?

    Also, have you heard about Fitness Blender workouts? If so, what do you think of them?

    Thanks for all the amazing stuff you wrote. It’s extremely helpful.

  33. Thank you for this! I recently had a total thyroidectomy, the steroids and medications three months prior to it caused weight gain, even eating clean. It’s slow going to lose but is coming off. Now that I understand as long I’m keeping that caloric deficit I’m in good shape and on the right track. I can quit wasting time reading about every “this diet is best”, “magical berry diet juice” , “only eat these carbs under a full moon”, nonsense crap, and definitely don’t need to starve or try one of the silly things. THANK YOU!

  34. Hey Jay,

    would walking for 40min-1hr on a treadmill (both incline and no incline) first thing EVERY morning (before any food) be counterproductive for a hardgainer/ecto/skinny-fat guy desperately seeking weight gains?

    It really de-stresses/energises me and keeps me sane, but if it’s gonna keep me from my goals I’ll find something else. I just read somewhere that if you walk first thing in the morning before you’ve eaten, you only burn fat instead of calories (true?).

    You’re awesome by the way, and your articles are brilliant.

      • Ah perfect!

        Exactly what I was looking for!

        I’m currently attending a circuit (metabolic) training class once per week

        (in addition to my usual 3 times per week intermediate weight training.)

        one hour x 3 sets x 12 stations, with resistance, covering all body parts.

        Your article has given me a great insight into the pros and cons of this kind of training.

        But as you say it really depends on your goals, so in that respect this works for me.. for now!

        Thanks!

  35. Hey Jay, I’m a 51 year old male that is in the intermediate stage. My goal is to lose some fat around my belly and build muscle at the same time. Should I be doing cardio on off days. I am not overweight by alot, I just have a belly that doesn’t allow me to look the way i want to. I deffinetely want to build more muscle though and I’ve been weight training for 7 months but can’t seem to lose the belly. If I eat more, I’m affraid it’s just going to make things worse. I guess My overall goal is to transform my body, lose the fat and gain muscle. I am 5’5″ tall and weigh 160 pounds but it all rests at the belly. Please help.

  36. Hey, this is probably the most helpful series of blogs, articles and no-nonsense advice about training and diet I’ve ever read.

    I’m in the process of fat reduction, and I of course have a question. I’ve never been a workout guy, really. I did some wrestling in high school and did weight cuts along with basic weight training but never took it seriously. I’m also running every day to build endurance for a sport I participate in, which after reading this article seems to be fine so long as the rest of training isn’t affected.

    My split is Mon,Tues, Wed, Off, Off, Cardio, Sun – I’ve been losing weight like a champ.

    My question is this – I’m fat right now, I feel better after this first month of training than I’ve felt in a long time, and I’ve been raising my calorie deficit from 20% to 30% and still feel bloated after eating, like I’m eating too much in a day. I’m good on protein, and take whey isolate before my workouts, but can I cut more calories? I think I fit in the ‘I can do cardio and weight train, and feel comfortable with a bigger caloric deficit’. Is it okay to do that? I mean, once I’m trimmed down, I’m going to start with muscle gaining, so — thanks for your time and this badass blog.

    DC

  37. I lift three times a week, and as a student on a limited budget who also enjoys partying. My goal is to lose fat and maintain/gain a little muscle. I often try to do cardio on rest days in order to help me keep the deficit in a good way. From what I’ve read (as someone whose had trouble losing body fat) this is most probably my best bet.

    Great article, cleared up some questions I had!

  38. Hey should i be taking whey protein on rest days as well??.If yes what would be the best time for taking it??

  39. Fabulous article as always. I wasn’t able to read through all the comments (yet), so my apologies if this has already been answered.

    What about using cardio on “rest days” in order to combat cheat meals/days? I know, I know–“as long as it helps to put you back in that caloric deficit…” I guess, my question is a bit more nuanced than that. People tend to view their progress in arbitrary blocks of time–weekly, monthly, quarterly. When should one actually measure whether there is sufficient caloric deficit? For example, if we choose weekly, theoretically, I could eat 1100 calories a day Monday thru Friday and eat chocolate cake on Saturday and Sunday, and still fall into a deficit. Put another way, if I don’t do any cardio Monday through Friday, but run 10 miles on Saturday and Sunday, I could still fall into caloric deficit.

    Are there problems with front/back-loading one’s calories in this manner? (I’m a stressed out lawyer who basically lives for the weekends…).

  40. I really do hate it when people equate cardio to only fat loss. That’s not the only reason to do cardio, people. Cardio has N number of other benefits (please look it up) besides fat loss. One of the biggest benefits is a healthy heart and greater stamina. I see so many people at the gym with big muscles but they will be flat on the ground if you ask them to run for 3 minutes. Do you think that’s ideal? I certainly don’t want to be that guy. Hence I compulsorily do cardio on off days despite being fairly skinny.

  41. I had just started exercising these last month and half. I usually do cardio first and then some weights. I do upper one day and lower next day. I always start on the elliptical first, then move on. I am overweight and have lost 27 lbs so far. My question is” should I be taking extra protein”. And also would it be good to do just cardio on my off days. I am new at all this, any advice would be appreciated. Also love your article.

    • Extra protein? That depends what you mean by “extra.” I’d suggest “sufficient” protein. If you’re overweight, 1 gram of protein per pound of your target body weight would be a good place to start.

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